Consett will be playing Northern Premier League football for the first time in their history next season after winning promotion with a fully-deserved victory against Cambridgeshire side Histon at their impressive Bridge Road stadium.
Goals from Scott Heslop and Dan Marriott either side of half-time put the Steelmen in control, and although Histon pulled one back to set up a nervous finish, Consett lived up to their nickname to see the game out.
Manager Andy Coyles’ options were again limited, which has been the story of the last couple of months. He was without injured central defenders Arjun Purewal and Ross Wilkinson and the suspended Calvin Smith and Darren Holden, while Supporters’ Player of the Year Colin Larkin was away celebrating his 40th birthday.
But Dan Capewell returned to central defence just four weeks after suffering a badly broken nose at Penrith, and Matty Slocombe reprised his recent role as a stand-in centre-back. Nick Cassidy started at right-back, with James Martin on the left.
In midfield, playmaker Luke Carr wore the captain’s armband, and he was joined by Jake Orrell, Lewis Green and Dan Marriott, with top scorer Dale Pearson and Scott Heslop up front.
Histon, who finished third-bottom of the Northern Premier League Midlands Division, had only two home wins under their belt all season, and it was their visitors who started more confidently.
Pearson had the game’s first chance on five minutes, but struck his half-volley from 20 yards just over the bar, and a minute later Heslop hit a dipping effort just over. On seven minutes Martin had a half-chance, but scuffed his shot, which made for an easy save for the keeper.
Histon showed their teeth for the first time after 12 minutes when skipper Ed Rolph headed just wide from a free-kick into the box. Five minutes later Finlay Wilkinson had another chance after breaking through, but dragged his shot wide.
Most of Histon’s attacking threat came from the long throw-ins of centre-back Max York, who was reaching the penalty area from the halfway line, but the visiting defence – particularly goalkeeper Kyle Hayes, Capewell and Slocombe – dealt with everything that was literally being thrown at them.
Consett still looked the likelier team to score, and Heslop came close on 29 minutes with a fine dipping effort from the corner of the box, but Histon keeper Sam Roach made a good save, diving to his left to punch the ball away.
The Steelmen had another opportunity when Pearson forced a save from the keeper, and the ball dropped invitingly for Marriott, who couldn’t make a clean connection, and the chance was gone.
With a Step 4 place for next season at stake there was always a chance the game might boil over, and that’s exactly what happened in the 42nd minute when Green barged into Ryan Towner on the halfway line. The home side surrounded the referee, demanding a red card, insisting he was the last man, but after consulting his linesman the official was content to issue a yellow.
Two minutes later Consett got the breakthrough they were looking for when Capewell’s long ball out of defence saw Scott Heslop outpace his man and keep his cool to finish past Roach to make it 1-0, sparking huge celebrations behind the goal.
The second half saw Consett go straight back on the attack, and Carr was unlucky to join Green and Pearson in the ref’s notebook when he stumbled while trying to dribble past a defender, and was promptly yellow-carded for diving, despite not even appealing for a foul!
Two minutes later Consett took complete control when they grabbed a second goal. A good pass from Pearson picked out Dan Marriott, who slipped his marker and beat the advancing keeper to the ball to lob home from the edge of the box for 2-0.
Things turned a bit scrappy, with Histon going even longer in the search for a way back into the game, and they got it on 73 minutes when Consett for once failed to deal with one of York’s missiles, and substitute Luke Lindsay fired home from close range to make it 2-1.
It was backs-to-the-wall time now, and in the 85th minute there was a huge goalmouth scramble in which first Martin and then a combination of Cassidy and Slocombe someone kept the ball out.
When the fourth official held up a board showing seven minutes of added time the small but extremely vocal Consett travelling support upped their volume, though they were almost silenced seconds before the end when Hayes made a matchwinning save, keeping out a close-range header with his legs.
The final whistle was greeted with joyous scenes from the Consett contingent as the bench ran onto the field to embrace the players, before running to the fans behind the goal to celebrate together.
Players, management and fans sang ‘we are going up, we are going up’ together in scenes which will live long in the memory of anyone who was there.
Consett might not have won gone up as champions, but showed enormous strength of character to get through this awkward play-off 220 miles from home, to ensure they will be playing at the highest level the club has ever seen when the new season starts in August.